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Queensland's epic Christmas milestone: 100 days without community infection

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The milestone comes as Queensland deals with two new cases of COVID-19 from vastly different sources: a man infected on the northern beaches of Sydney, and a woman on a superyacht from the Maldives.

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The man, aged in his forties, did everything right after his visit to the northern beaches on December 12, getting tested – initially negative, and now positive – and isolating at home on his return to Queensland.

However, the super-yacht crew in Cairns have not been so cooperative. After arriving on Monday, 14 passengers were moved into hotel quarantine where a woman in her twenties tested positive, while six crew remained on the super-yacht and have now also been tested.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said while there was no evidence any of the crew had come into contact with Queenslanders since arriving from the Maldives, there were still gaps in their story.

“I want to know exactly where they’ve been and who’s come on to that yacht while they’ve been overseas,” Young said.

The superyacht is reported to be the Lady E, which was refurbished by its current owners after being purchased from American billionaire Dan Snyder, who had himself refurbished the US$180 million vessel. While the superyacht is available for charter, the as-yet unidentified owners’ family had been planning a round-the-world cruise at the end of 2020.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said she was “very disappointed” the crew were not more cooperative but police were pressing for answers.

There are now 11 active cases in Queensland, and after Queensland Health brought more resources online some 25,000 tests have been done in 48 hours. A high rate of testing is needed to rule out the silent spread of the virus.

“We know it’s hot in Queensland, and it’s uncomfortable to line up for testing, but I want to say thank you,” D’Ath said, adding that wait times had decreased.

Some of those tests were on staff running hotel quarantine, where more than 1,800 rooms are being occupied by people awaiting the all-clear and set to spend Christmas in isolation.

While the 100-day run without community transmission is a milestone, there remain border restrictions in place with NSW following that state’s outbreak. Even though the number of new cases from the northern beaches cluster has remained low, it has grown beyond 100, and Young said she could not yet commit to restrictions being lifted on January 8.

In Queensland, there are 53 close contacts of people infected in the northern beaches cluster, with NSW Health still contact tracing, and Queensland Health trying to identify anyone who came into contact with the only previous case in the state, a woman who has since returned to NSW.

With the potential for infected travellers to be in the Queensland community, and sewage testing seemingly confirming that, Young urged people to take precautions.

Asked if people could hug on Christmas Day, Young said “I would restrict that to your close, known contacts, your close relatives are people who live in your household”.

“I just think that’s a risk that’s not necessary,” Young said.

“Maybe it’s not the time to hug your great grandmother.”

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